When Warwick Davis directed the movie Willow in 1988, he was only 17 years old.
Imagined by George Lucas and directed by Ron Howard, it was a box office hit, was nominated for an Oscar and has an influence still felt today – the director of last year’s The Green Knight cited Willow among inspiration from the film. .
So maybe in an age of remakes, reboots, and sequels, it was inevitable that there would be more fantasy story about an aspiring wizard to come, and that’s continuing now thanks to a new TV series sequel. set years after the film.
Davis told Sky News the impact the character and the film have had on his life has been “huge”.
“Before Willow I had been seen in Return Of The Jedi, well not seen – hidden behind Wicket the ewok’s furry mask – so that was my experience on set and the movie Labyrinth as well, so that was for me a real leap of faith,” he said.
“Well, George Lucas took that leap of faith by writing the story for me, and it was something that he originally mentioned to my mother in 1984, he said ‘I just had an idea for Warwick, he’s not old enough yet, but when he’s a little older we’ll do it” and that was Willow – he had kind of sown the seeds for so many years before.”
“So for me it was groundbreaking because I had to develop the game outside of a costume where you could see my face, because inside of a furry costume, like I was in As a Wicket, you kinda tend to exaggerate everything to convey your feelings.
“I act with my face inside this mask but nothing shows – so when you take that off you kind of have to take it all back down and make it really natural and real and just go with your instincts, which is did I do.”
And the film’s success meant that Davis wasn’t the only one who wanted to continue Willow’s story – he says fans have been clamoring for more for decades.
“When I did the movie Willow, I was only 17, so I felt like I was pretty inexperienced as an actor,” Davis explained.
“Although Ron Howard was a brilliant director and he really encouraged me and taught me a lot, I still felt afterwards that I could have done a better job – you know, maturity brings experience in life, and you can bring that stuff to your performance.”
“But really my urge to do a sequel was driven by fans everywhere I went they were kind of saying ‘we want more Willow’ and their voice was loud and eventually got heard by the right people, especially in this case, John Kasdan, who wrote the series.
“It’s one of those movies that people, as they grew up watching it, passed it on to their kids and said, ‘You have to watch this movie, it’s the one I grown up.'”
A lot has changed in the film and television industry since the 1980s – advancements in technology making it possible to put anything on screen.
Davis said that in that sense, the two productions felt very different on set.
“Technology has come on leaps and bounds and it’s really thanks to George Lucas pushing digital technology and the work he’s done, you know, developing ILM [Industrial Light and Magic – Lucas’ visual effects company] and the progress they’ve made in that area,” Davis explained.
“Filming the show was very different from the movie…CGI is now the way to go when we did Willow, there was some use of CGI – it was the very first use of morphing in a movie that used computers to turn the witch Fin Raziel from a goat to a woman again.
“It hadn’t been seen before, so it was groundbreaking at the time, but now on the show you can do pretty much anything you can imagine – so anything that John Kasdan, the writer , could imagine that we could put on screen for the viewers.”
But while the technology has changed, the aesthetic of the series, and indeed the tone of the story, feels familiar, with Davis saying there were certain elements that he felt needed to stay true to the original.
“In my early discussions, it was mostly about keeping the DNA of the movie in the show – we’re doing something brand new, but we had to keep that kind of philosophy about Willow,” he explained. .
“What made the film so successful was the humor, the magic, the characters.
“And that’s what George Lucas’ philosophy was in what he does – it’s all about the character, it’s what drives him and the story – so a really good story and great characters that you can log in.”
The actor, who has made several appearances in the Star Wars franchise as well as the Harry Potter movies, and many more, says he’s seen Willow’s impact on his entire career.
“And now people are hearing about the show, they’re so excited.
“Grown men are running up to me at gas stations and saying, ‘Hey, there’s a show, I’m so excited to see this,’ which is wonderful.
“We put so much effort into filming these things, so when people appreciate it and get excited, it’s worth it.”
Willow is streaming on Disney+ now.